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Instructions for completing a report on the applicant – form 201

General information

Complete this report if you have agreed to evaluate an applicant for an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship – Doctoral (PGS D) or a Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF). If you are the applicant’s proposed supervisor, you cannot complete the report unless you are currently their supervisor or have supervised them in the past.

Refer to the Frequently asked questions for references completing a Report on the applicant – form 201 web page for more information.

Before proceeding

By submitting your report to NSERC, you confirm that you have read and understood these instructions. This is in addition to your acceptance of the terms and conditions for references. Refer to the Signatures section below for the requirements associated with electronically submitted documents.

Best practices for limiting unconscious biases

NSERC is committed to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure equitable access across its programs.

NSERC encourages the use of inclusive language. Use of inclusive language has been shown to decrease unconscious bias during the evaluation process. For more information, refer to the This link will take you to another Web site Limiting Unconscious Bias section of the This link will take you to another Web site Canada Research Chairs website.

The following best practices and considerations should be taken into account when drafting your report:

  • Use inclusive language (for example, “the applicant” or “they” instead of “he/she”).
  • Be objective, accurate, fair, clear and balanced.
  • Attempt to make use of all available space in the provided text box(es).
  • Support your points by providing specific examples of accomplishments where possible.
  • Use superlative descriptors (for example, excellent, outstanding) judiciously and support them with evidence.
  • Include only information that is relevant to the selection criteria (for example, do not include information related to ethnicity, age, hobbies, marital status, religion, disability status, financial need, etc.).
  • Avoid sharing personal information about the applicant—such information may be helpful only when explaining academic delays or interruptions and should be addressed with caution.
  • Avoid words or sentences that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory language of particular people or groups or their institution.
  • Avoid inappropriate comments.
  • Do not include links that refer to external sources.

You should also refer to the tri-agency This link will take you to another Web site Bias in peer review training module as a guide for preventing unconscious bias in merit review.

For further information on unconscious bias, consult the This link will take you to another Web site Gender-based Analysis Plus: Unconscious bias section of the This link will take you to another Web site Women and Gender Equality Canada website.


Applicants have been advised to provide their references with a deadline that is well before the application deadline, to allow applicants to submit their completed application on time. The applicant cannot submit their application until the Report on the applicant has been completed and submitted in NSERC’s online system. We recommend that you submit your Report on the applicant well in advance of the applicant’s deadline to allow enough time for the applicant to complete and submit their application. No deadline extensions will be given to applicants who are unable to submit because of missing Reports on the applicant.

Personal information

The collection, use and disclosure of personal information provided to NSERC is outlined in the following policy statements:

The information you provide in your report is collected under the authority of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act. NSERC is subject to the This link will take you to another Web site Access to Information Act and the This link will take you to another Web site Privacy Act. The information you provide is stored in a series of NSERC data banks as described in the This link will take you to another Web site Information about programs and information holdings section of the This link will take you to another Web site Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat website.

Upon request, NSERC will provide applicants access to information about themselves that is kept in these data banks but does not provide the applicant with the name of the person who submitted the report or the names of any other applicants mentioned in a comparative context. However, due to the nature of the application process, applicants are usually aware of who has completed their report. As a result, privacy and/or anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Help with the NSERC online system

  • Consult the frequently asked questions web page for information on how to use the online system.
  • Contact the online services helpdesk by sending an email to or by calling 1-855-275-2861. Include your email address and telephone number in your message.

Completing your report

Applicants indicate the name and email addresses of the two references who will complete the Report on the applicant – form 201 in their application for a PGS D or PDF. An email is then generated by the online system inviting you, as a reference, to complete the report. If you do not receive this email, you should confirm that it is not in your junk or spam email folder. If you are still unable to locate the email invitation, the applicant should re-invite you using a different email address.

Follow the instructions provided in the email and submit the required information by the deadline provided by the applicant. You will have access to their application while completing your Report on the applicant.

Length of the report

  • PGS D (one text box): You are limited to the space available in the text box, which is approximately half a page.
  • PDF (two text boxes): The first text box represents approximately half a page. The second text box is approximately three-quarters of a page.

NSERC encourages references to make full use of the allotted space. Your report must be typed into the text box(es), and it is imperative that you preview your report before it is submitted to ensure that your text fits within the allotted space. Text that is not visible on the previewed report will not be seen by NSERC staff or the selection committee members.

Once your report is complete, you must successfully verify your report (all mandatory fields of the form must be completed). On the Accept and Submit page, select Click here to verify your report. Once it is verified, you must agree to the terms and conditions by selecting I accept, and your report will then be attached to the application. The status of your Report on the applicant’s portfolio will change to Document Completed, and you will no longer have access to it. If you wish to make changes, you must communicate with the applicant and request that the report be unlocked for revisions. Once the report is unlocked, you will be able to make the changes and resubmit the report electronically. Note that once the applicant has submitted the full application to NSERC, this functionality will no longer be available.

Content of your report

The Report on the applicant is a critical component of the application package and can significantly influence its evaluation. Rather than providing general comments, assess the applicant’s strengths and limitations for each selection criterion. Include examples of the applicant’s accomplishments and contributions to support your assessment, while taking measures to mitigate implicit or unconscious bias. You are also encouraged to address any qualities, skills and/or contributions that may not be immediately apparent to the selection committee members reviewing the application. These can include, but are not limited to, the applicant’s enthusiasm for research, motivation, role in manuscript writing, leadership role within the research group, etc.

For additional guidance, consult the Selection criteria and indicators section and appendices A and B of the Selection committee guide for Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowships programs, which provide useful information on what selection committee members look for when assessing applications.

Selection criteria

Refer to the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) program web page for information on selection criteria for the PGS D program.

Refer to the PDF program web page for information on selection criteria for the PDF program.


NSERC does not require original signatures on applications or other documents submitted electronically through its online system. The electronic submission of applications through this system represents approval and replaces the traditional “physical” or “wet” signatures.